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5 New Findings on Mobile Device Use for Employment Assessments

August 12, 2019

Key Themes in Mobile Device Research for  Employment AssessmentAs society continues to become increasingly interconnected through technology, the prevalence of mobile devices being used for various purposes increases commensurately. Mobile device ownership has steadily increased to a point where more than two-thirds of American adults have indicated they own and regularly use a mobile device daily, with this number expected to continue to increase. This is not exclusive to smartphones, as the category of “mobile” includes laptops, notebooks, and tablets as well.

This flexibility and convenience for applicants is appealing to a population of test takers that has grown to expect their potential employers to be keeping pace with technology and modern trends. Overall, the industry is capitalizing on rapid technological advancements, while researchers are trying to catch up. What should we change in our selection process, considering this increasing use of mobile devices? Where is the trend heading? 

At the 2019 Society of Industrial Organizational Psychology annual conference, we saw a few key themes coming out of the mobile assessment research space:

  1. There is a significant and growing population that ONLY has a smartphone, meaning organizations could miss a large percentage of an applicant pool without offering mobile-optimized solutions. Who are these sub-populations, and should we be worried?

    • Millennials (18-34) lead all age groups in smartphone access, though Gen Xers (35-49) are tops in PC and tablet access. Adult men and women have equal levels of PC access, while women lead slightly in tablet and smartphone access.

    • Past work that has shown that minorities are more likely to apply using a phone, and it may be a legal issue to not offer a mobile option in some contexts.

    • African Americans have the lowest levels of PC and tablet access.

    • Asian Americans and African Americans have the broadest access to smartphones, while whites have the lowest.

  2. African Americans, Hispanics, and females are more likely to take a test on a mobile device than white males are. This may present challenges if individuals who take tests on mobile devices for one reason or another tend to have lower scores. If individuals from protected groups are more likely to take tests on mobile devices, and therefore are likely to do worse on the test, then we may see increases in adverse impact arising. Having said that, most of the research in this area, even with very large sample sizes, indicates that differences in adverse impact are extremely rare when comparing mobile and non-mobile devices.

  3. Most candidates prefer assessments that are not mobile when an employment decision is at stake.

    • While applicants may like the idea and convenience of applying on a phone, in practice the PC seems to still be a better experience, even on assessments that were designed first for a mobile device.

    • If they could only choose one, the results indicated that candidates would prefer assessments available in formats they believe will give them the best chance of performing well and receiving a job offer. This is different from their level of enjoyment with an assessment modality. They might enjoy taking an assessment on a mobile device, but when a hiring decision is on the line, candidates consistently choose non-mobile options that they believe will give them the best chance to get the job.

    • There may be a disconnect between what candidates want and what business stakeholders think candidates want.

  4. Only 15% of companies worldwide make assessments available to candidates on mobile devices.

    • Australia/New Zealand has the highest percentage of companies using mobile assessments for hiring at 22%, followed by the Americas at 19%, and Europe at 14%. The region with the lowest percentage of usage of mobile assessments is the Middle East and Africa at 11%.

    • It is important to understand local conditions before rolling out mobile assessments.

  5. Most research indicates that mobile candidates are completing assessments at home.

    • However, some research has indicated candidates who use mobile are more likely to encounter distractions.

    • In addition, mobile device users were more adversely impacted by distractions from their testing environment.

    • How concerned should we be about mobile-related distractions?

We still need to bridge the gap between research and practice in the mobile assessment arena. We have yet to establish an agreed-upon set of best practices for mobile assessments, but PSI continues to pursue this goal of confirming how mobile assessment implementation and practice is best achieved, so stay tuned!    

Mobile Assessments What We Know and Where We’re Going

Kristin Delgado Kristin Delgado is a Senior Research Consultant at PSI. Her areas of expertise include analyzing data, designing and evaluating selection systems in terms of system utility, validity, fairness, and efficiency, and item response methodology. Kristin is a member of the Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology and maintains an active role in conducting applied research.